The Importance of Authority

All primary and secondary characteristics of a state are important to its success, but the most important characteristic is having a state authority. It is vital to the survival of an ancient state to have a central system for decision-making that can also enforce those decisions. In any society, choices will need to be made, and a system must be in place to solve problems. Even the most egalitarian societies will encounter natural leaders in their midsts. In the case of a state, organization of a large, unified population is necessary. Agriculture, infrastructure, and trade need to be managed. Militaristic and diplomatic relations need leadership. Without a state authority, the level of centralization seen in ancient states would not be possible.
Egypt is a great example of the importance of one central power. The pharaoh governed lower and upper Egypt. Symbols of power demonstrate the unified state. The double crown represents the joining of the two lands. Den implemented the use of the title Nsw Bty, meaning, “king of upper and lower Egypt” as a reminder of unification. Other demonstrations like the Heb Sed festival serve to perpetuate the notion of one comprehensive state. The pharaoh was an intermediary between the physical world and the gods, further validating his power. The importance as well as the scope of the pharaoh’s power is evident in the pyramids. He was powerful enough to devote labor and resources for thirty years to grand architecture. In addition to the pharaoh, there was a hierarchy of administrative decision-makers. Nomarchs also led districts, or nomes, and reported to the capital on a regular basis as a reinforcement that they were under his command. Only when these visits and other demonstrations of unification become less frequent did the centralized state collapse.
In the Indus Valley, centralized power comes in a different form than the extreme demonstrations of unification as in Egypt. Harappan cities have tremendous standardization. Incredible amounts of mudbricks, all the same size, make up the rectilinear buildings that line the streets. Cities, all on a grid, feature standardized houses, alleyways, drainage channels, wells, cisterns, and even neighborhood baths. This type of city standardization would not be possible without a master plan, laid out by an administrative body. Standardization was not only within city walls, but extended into Harappa’s extensive trade network in the form of standardized weights and measurements.
While expressed in different ways, every ancient state we have explored this semester contained a governing body. This authoritative power allowed states to grow and flourish; without it, many were unable to have continued success and fell. While every primary and secondary characteristic is important to ancient states, a state authority is the most essential to maintaining organization and structure.

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